Do Unused Product Labels Have A Shelf-Life?

As is the case with all custom printing, unit prices usually drop as the quantity ordered goes up. For example, ordering 1,000 custom product labels may cost you 30 cents per label – or more, depending on the label size and material you choose. However, if you increase the order quantity to (say) 3,000, then the unit price might drop to 12 cents, due to the fact that each production job carries a similar overhead component before the first label gets printed – which is then absorbed across the total labels printed.

This is probably no great surprise – many manufacturing industries have similar pricing approaches, i.e. the more you order the cheaper each additional product costs. So it makes sense to order more – right? Well, not necessarily – and here’s why…

First, keeping excess inventory of any product (or component) doesn’t always come free. You may need to pay for storage space, handling charges may be involved, and of course your product labels may need to be adjusted due to legal changes in the marketplace (such as happened recently in the vaping market). So those stocks of pre-printed product labels suddenly become worthless and need to be re-printed – and the initial unit cost “savings” are wiped out.

However, there’s another factor you may wish to consider when deciding how many product labels to buy each time you order – and that factor is commonly called “shelf life”. You see, the raw material we print your product labels on doesn’t come with an unlimited life-span – most specifically the adhesives do begin to lose their “stickiness” over time if they haven’t been applied to an end product (bottle, jar, etc). This can be further affected by storage conditions, so keeping your rolls of labels in the wrong environment can have an adverse effect as well. The material manufacturers use 72 degrees F and 50% relative humidity as their benchmark when estimating shelf-life, so any major variation from that may affect the results. 

Label material manufacturers generally state that a 1-year shelf-life is a reasonable expectation – and that period begins when the material is actually produced, NOT when we print the labels. Now, given our significant usage and turnover of the materials we stock, you need not be concerned that we’re keeping it in inventory for any lengthy period – we cycle though the materials very quickly.

So, in general you can reasonably expect a shelf-life of 9-12 months (and maybe more) in most conditions, but leaving rolls of unused labels on the shelf for extended periods can have unexpected results.